Inspirational! Educational! Exploration! Engagement! Exciting! Community-Oriented! Success! These are words that easily describe Panorama Senior High School’s environment and the daily experience of its students, faculty, and the surrounding community.
Goals and Visions
Achieving the American Dream can often be out of reach for many of the neighborhood’s low income, immigrant students, some of whom drop out by the 10th grade. Therefore, WWCOT’s overall goal and vision was to create an environment that instills students with a strong sense of pride, where “Every student can and will succeed!”
Facilitating parent and student participation in the design process was the first step in instilling a sense of pride. Trust was established early. Upfront communication was the key to the project’s success. WWCOT conducted a series of community and school district consensus building sessions in both English and Spanish, which was instrumental in resolving emotional issues while meeting the school district’s educational programming standards.
In addition, members of the design team observed students throughout the day at the local schools in order to understand their daily habits. Team members interviewed a full spectrum of students at all academic levels to determine their essential needs and become aware of the challenges they faced.
Our team took time to understand the issues at hand and create a bond with the users and community members during the planning process. Recurring design meetings were advertised to promote maximum community participation. Homeowners, district personnel, businessowners, faculty and students were invited to contribute their ideas and express their concerns. By conducting the design meetings in both English and Spanish, the native language of the community’s largely immigrant residents, the design team was able to truly understand the issues and eliminate any misinterpretation of goals and desires.
Challenges and Solutions
While tackling site issues and demographic challenges, WWCOT reinvented the image of a place to learn, delivering a sensational and inspirational educational facility that is celebrated today by the surrounding neighborhood and business communities, as well as the faculty and the students themselves. The project’s greatest challenges included:
How to accommodate facilities for 2,100 students in a dense urban area.
How to satisfy community needs for safety, noise and traffic mitigation, design compatibility, and facility access.
How to foster academic inspiration and pride with a sense of student and community ownership and secure learning environments and accessible recreational facilities.
Through careful analysis of the urban framework and thoughtful consideration of the local community, WWCOT developed unique design features that complement the surrounding environment and stimulate the minds of the students. These features include:
Placing classrooms in a four-story building and situating athletic fields over parking to maximize the accommodation of program space on the tight site.
Positioning the stadium away from the residential side of the campus In order to minimize noise disturbance to the neighbors, in combination with an eight-foot concrete block wall for an additional acoustic and security barrier.
Organizing the buildings around a quad provides students with secure social spaces and outdoor learning opportunities. Placing the library, auditorium, gymnasium, and swimming pool on the south side of the campus to facilitate secure, after-hours community access, enabling local low-income residents to take advantage of learning resources and recreational amenities that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
Instead of institutional settings, we created inspirational environments. The landmark front façade, which features a double-height curtain wall and four-story exterior stairs flanked by a vibrant red wall, welcomes students into campus. The two-story-height library reading room features commanding panoramic city views, beyond the students’ immediate neighborhood. Here, students are inspired to broaden their horizons and seek opportunities in higher education and beyond to achieve success and fulfill their dreams and goals.
Situated between a commercial area to the north and a residential area to the south, the structures’ visual compatibility with the neighboring buildings has been a critical element of the project’s overall success. Toward the north end of the campus, the four-story classroom buildings match the height of the nearby commercial buildings, imparting an urban feel to that edge. Next to the residential neighborhood, the buildings are smaller; the two-story gymnasium and one-story service building match the scale of the adjacent apartment buildings.
Dynamic colors, materials, and massing mirror the area’s exciting, diverse population. In order to adhere to the District’s strict budget, WWCOT incorporated cost-effective design elements such as exposed stairways and vibrant colors in key areas, in lieu of costly, superfluous decorative elements. Using plaster instead of concrete reduced the overall building costs and eliminated the institutional “prison-like” feel.
Safety and Security
Organizing the buildings around the quad allows students to roam freely in a controlled, secure environment, and fosters student interaction and interpersonal learning. Careful positioning of the main building on the northeast corner of the school site closest to the commercial district confines drop-off traffic away from the residences. In order to prevent drivers from potentially dangerous turning-around on adjacent residential streets, the team incorporated an on-site turnabout into the parking layout.
Sustainability and energy efficiency were key elements that were implemented in the design of this project. The WWCOT team applied its sustainable design expertise to integrate CHPS(Collaborative for High Performance Schools) and LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) criteria, resulting in durable facilities that minimally impact natural surroundings, and provide users with safer, cleaner environments. We incorporated the following sustainable design elements:
High performance glass for all windows;
Large operable windows to maximize views, natural daylight, and ventilation;
Low-wattage lighting in most spaces on campus;
Motion sensor switches in every room;
PVC-free interior finishes that prevent off-gassing and achieve optimum Indoor Air Quality(IAQ) performance standards;
Local building materials and products to minimize transportation impacts;
Materials that require low maintenance and minimal use of harmful chemicals;
Acoustically-responsive classrooms and offices;
Ergonomic furniture and accessories; and
Recycling centers situated throughout the campus.
How Facility Design Responds to the Various Teaching and Learning Styles
A well-designed campus can foster educational success. Providing more personal, small learning communities and modernized facilities for every student was one of the school district’s objectives. Panorama Senior High School features grade-level academies which provide students with a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, foreign language instruction and performing arts electives. A sense of pride and inspiration resonates throughout the campus design, reinforcing the vision that “all students can and will succeed” in attaining theAmerican Dream.